Biography of a Hill
Biography of a Hill
Novi Pazar in South-Western Serbia
Archaeology is one of the academic disciplines whose aim is to make sense of the past. Among other things, we organize and classify the material culture of the past into distinctive units according to a number of scholarly established criteria. In the course of the history of the discipline, these criteria have changed, and some of the previously prevailing modes of classiﬁcation have been severely criticized, above all the concept of archaeological culture (e.g. Jones 1997; Canuto and Yaeger 2000; Isbell 2000; Thomas 2000; Lucy 2005). These reconsiderations have brought forward that the past may not have been as orderly organized and readily packed into the units we have designed to manipulate and explain its material traces. Consequently, we have started investigating other possible paths of thinking about the lived experiences of the people whose actions we seek to understand (e.g. Díaz-Andreu et al. 2005; Insoll 2007). However, some of the archaeological practices of organizing our subject of study have remained largely unchanged from the very beginnings of our discipline to the present day, such as deﬁning one of the very basic units of observation—an archaeological site. The archaeological process may be said to begin ‘at the trowel’s edge’ (Hodder 1999, 92ff.), by distinguishing the features in the soil indicative of past human activities and demarcating their spatial limits. This basic anchoring in the spatial dimension, regardless of subsequent procedures, that may vary signiﬁcantly depending upon the theoretical and methodological inclinations of the researcher(s) in question (Jones 2002; Lucas 2001; 2012), renders the past tangible and manageable, transforming a patch of land into an object of study, further scrutinized according to a set of rules laid down by archaeologists. Once investigated in their physical form in the ﬁeld, the sites are converted into a set of information, analysed, commented upon and valorized both by archaeologists and the general public. In the process, some are judged to be more important than the others and lists of particularly valuable sites are compiled, such as the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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